State provides graduation ceremony guidelines

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The Class of 2019 lines up for last year's drive-thru graduation ceremony. File photo

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Graduation—a milestone for high school seniors—can proceed with both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, so long as COVID-19 guidance is followed.

The information was presented by the Department of Labor Standards, in consultation with the commissioner of the Department of Public Health, and applies to colleges, universities, or K-12 public and private schools. It’s a set of minimum safety standards, and school officials are encouraged to stay up to date on public health data.

North Attleborough High School’s Class of 2021 commencement will be held on June 4 at 6 p.m., with rain dates of June 5 or 6.

Last year’s graduation was heavily modified as the pandemic had made outdoor events a challenge. Instead of an outdoor ceremony, students got their diplomas in a drive-thru graduation. Students were driven to the school in groups and lined up outside the school, walking to the stage one at a time to receive their diplomas. Once done, they left with family so the next group could proceed.

NAHS Principal Peter Haviland said that students have been actively involved in the planning process for this year’s ceremony. Class officers sent a survey to their fellow students asking how they’d like the ceremony to proceed. There was a strong response, with a desire that it be held at Beaupre Field near the high school, giving them “a sense of ownership,” said Haviland.

They’ve lost so many things—homecoming, dances,” he said. “Their appetite now is in favor to be together and socialize in a safe environment.”

Haviland added that Beaupre Field was chosen because the bleachers at Community Field—where the graduation is normally held—can’t be used due to the risk of infection. Students will be seated together, with guests for each graduate in small groups socially distanced from one another.

The goal is to have a modified graduation ceremony that is memorable and allows parents and kids to celebrate the kids and and their accomplishments,” said Haviland.

On the subject of proms and the All Night Grad Party, Haviland said these are all a possibility. The school has already booked a venue in Mendon for the prom, though guidance from the state is still forthcoming. Duplicating last year’s events is an option, though not one the schools want to do.

We have 800 kids in the building every day,” said Haviland. “We’d like to see if we can make more inclusive events.”

Rules from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on graduations

Commencements may be held indoors or outdoors, in event spaces, ballrooms, private clubs and party rooms, public places, and stadiums, arenas, and ball parks, the four-page document states. The locations must allow for a six-foot social distancing and have proper air flow. Ceremonies should be kept brief, food or drink are not permitted, and there can be no communal gathering or reception before or after the event.

Attendance must be limited to faculty, administrators, speakers, and graduates and their guests only. Guests are limited to no more than six per graduate, and they must register in advance, according to the four-page document. Graduates can walk across the stage one at a time and turn their tassel in lieu of receiving the diploma. Alternatively, diplomas and awards may also be distributed if bestowing the awards and diplomas is done cautiously, such as placing them on a table as the graduate walks by to retrieve it.

Guests must wear their face coverings at all times. Graduates must as well, except for designated photograph locations. Speakers may remove their face coverings during their remarks only provided that there is at least six feet between them and the audience.

Singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments is discouraged. Singing is not allowed indoors. For events involving outdoor singing or the indoor or outdoor playing of brass or wind instruments, special distancing must be followed. This includes at least 10 feet between performers and at least 25 between performers and first row of the audience. Plexiglass barriers cannot be used to reduce required distance between performers or between performers and the audience.